AS a solicitor of over 40 years' experience can I state that the contributor of your Agenda column today ("It’s time to put victims front and centre", The Herald, February 22) is under a misapprehension?

The most important person in a trial is, was and always has been, the accused. In a trial there are no victims. It is for the Crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a crime has taken place. It is then for the Crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused carried out the crime. Only once that has been done is it proper to talk about witnesses.

It is now the position in law that defence lawyers conducting the defence of persons charged with sexual or domestic offences are not allowed to lead evidence that reasonable lay people would consider vital to the defence. A variety of statutes have whittled away the protections that accused persons have, on the premise that there are not enough convictions. Manifest injustices have resulted.

This is the direct result of the lobbying by the "victim support" industry.

If witnesses are uncomfortable in court, then the truth is more likely to come out. A lying witness should not feel comfortable. Are we soon to return to the rules of court of the 18th century where accused could not give evidence or challenge the prosecution witnesses?

Graham R Bryson, Glasgow.

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Pro-life activism is not counselling

I HAVE been following the debate between Robert Menzies and Gemma Clark on the subject of buffer zones to insulate maternity units from anti-abortion protests (Letters, February 19, 20 & 21).

Mr Menzies appears to advocate the introduction of counselling rooms for anti-abortion campaigners in NHS maternity units. He says that it would not be hard to plan in such provision, and of course he is right from a purely architectural planning viewpoint, but there are other considerations. I feel that it would be dangerously counterproductive for one quite simple reason. Pro-life activism is not counselling. In fact it is the antithesis of counselling.

As Ms Clark indicated, the NHS, starting with referral from a GP, provides counselling for pregnant mothers. It encourages unbiased dialogue to aid personal decision-making. It is non-judgmental and does not instruct what to do.

The pro-life approach comes from a fixed, inviolate principle, that being that God has decreed human life to be sacred and therefore there should be no abortion. That is not counselling, that is dogma. A room for the purpose, no matter who funds it, would be counter to the ethos of the NHS.

I agree with Mr Menzies that choosing to confront people in a public space on this subject, or indeed on any sensitive subject, could be potentially injurious to their already fragile state of mind. It is dangerous anywhere and totally inappropriate in an NHS facility.

Jim Proctor, Paisley.

Read more: There is no need for buffer zones outside abortion clinics

CalMac bosses are hamstrung

A SAD day I ever left the croft; the timetabled service from Tiree to Coll is cancelled once again. I drove down to Gott pier on Tiree this morning (February 22) only to be told that the good ship Lord of the Isles wasn’t even going to bother to try to get back into Coll. Much as I appreciate that CalMac blames the malfunctioning stabiliser on LOTI the truth is the stabilisers are drawn in during docking so unless the stabiliser is jammed out then today’s wind out here, an ineffectual 16mph from the WSW with no serious swell to speak of, would not make any difference to a second docking at Coll.

No wonder the Scottish Field magazine is running an article calling for the sacking of CalMac and the installation of Serco or Western Ferries with its quote “this is a company which in the first half of 2023 cancelled 1,689 sailings”. Seems a shame, CalMac has a great staff on board and in the ports but the management is clearly misdirected and hamstrung by loftier creatures.

I don’t blame CalMac for the fact that its fleet is depleted and that five of its ancient ships are in dry dock today (including the MV Clansman, Tiree & Coll’s usual vessel), the blame belongs in Holyrood; really bad time of year to have your boats out of the water though if you are trying to run a serious ferry company designed to sustain Scottish island life in the most difficult season.

Hopefully the four new ferries from Turkey will arrive soon and who knows, maybe the MV John Swinney and MV Nicola Sturgeon (known on the mainland as MVs Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa, now six years late and £263 million over budget, may also one day join in the fun.

Peter Isaacson, Hynish, Tiree.

The Herald: The Lord of the IslesThe Lord of the Isles (Image: Newsquest)

Council wrong to pass the buck

THE decision by Highland Council to blame teachers for poor education stats ("Council officials put blame on teachers for exam results", The Herald, February 22) is deeply disappointing, disrespectful of the sterling work done by teachers and is also educational in its own way. It teaches us that a certain culture operates in Highland Council.

It speaks of a desire to avoid their own responsibility and accountability in this matter. Budgets for schools are cut and central government is blamed. Yet our elected councillors make the decisions and set the budgets. They cut special needs provision in schools and expect teachers to take up the slack.

Highland Council is, of course, driven by a centralisation imperative, like its masters in Holyrood, and rather than support local teachers it makes decisions separate from local needs. Plus, and clearly I need to point this out to them, its officials urnae teachers.

How can council officials assess the quality of teachers' judgments? What qualifies them for such a strategically important task? And before elected members start their usual buck-passing to the officials, let's remember that it is them who do the appointing. We have justifiably regulated the ownership of dangerous dogs. Maybe we need to do the same with council officials.

Rev John Nugent, Wick.

Read more: Oh, how we loved Scotland's Lyle's Golden Syrup tins

An annoying number

ALISON Rowat (“Why SNP MPs should be very afraid of a Labour win", The Herald, February 21) asks: what is the collective noun for a gathering of former Scottish Secretaries?

How about “a scunner”?

Eric Macdonald, Paisley.